Tag:Carl Pelini
Posted on: October 17, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:08 pm
 

Wrecked: Texas Tech 31, Nebraska 10

We're six games into the season, and Husker Nation still doesn't know the identity of this Nebraska team and exactly what they can accomplish.

Following a last-minute meltdown on the road against Virginia Tech, a thrilling rally against Mizzou in a monsoon, and three convincing wins against Sun Belt opponents, Husker fans could point at this team and, despite all its scars and blemishes, feel somewhat good about them.  Yet, while most felt that the VT loss was as respectable as the Mizzou win was dramatic, many question marks remained.  There were those who thought that the rain-soaked game in Columbia, despite the thrill it gave much of the nation, obscured several glaring concerns spiraling around this Nebraska team, not unlike like the sheets of rain that pelted them last Thursday.

So, as much as we don't know about this version of the Cornhuskers, perhaps it's easier to talk about the things we DO know about them:

Their offense, when not playing Florida Atlantic or Louisiana-Lafayette, can be downright offensive.  Zac Lee is wildly inconsistent, not only in his throws but in his decision-making on the field.  While I no longer reside in Nebraska, I can only imagine the swelling opinion, correct or not, that will be resonating throught the state: Cody Green needs to play more, if not start altogether.  As it turned out, Pelini somewhat agreed as I wrote this, inserting Green into the offense in the second half, though it was far too little, far too late (a lone touchdown pass to Khiry Cooper following a near-interception). 

It's clear that Roy Helu Jr. cannot do everything and, while I feel that there is no room for excuses, the loss of Rex Burkhead as the number-two I-back was more costly than initially imagined.  Additionally, it seems that while a receiver or two might step up one week, no receiver has stepped up consistently.  The announcers today hit the nail on the head when they remarked that Nebraska's receiving corps is essentially wide-receiver-by-committee.

The Huskers' defense, just rewarded their Blackshirts by Pelini, have a very unsettling habit of playing soft towards the end of a half; they did it most notably against Virginia Tech, in the first half against in Missouri and also in the first half against Texas Tech.  Exactly what was Carl Pelini thinking at that point, calling a prevent defense and having his defenders play so far off of the Red Raiders' receivers?  And while Ndamukong Suh has been adding to his resume each week (except perhaps this one) and Jared Crick has been benefiting from all of the extra attention being paid to his linemate, the defense has had horrible lapses and not exactly where they might be expected.  Going into the season, the main concern surrounding the Nebraska defense was the lack of experience at linebacker, not the secondary, which is where a frightening amount of NU's defensive failures have occurred.  Yes, the Blackshirts held the Red Raiders' offense to just a handful of yards in the second half, but it was long after the real damage had been done.

One more defensive observation: Though they managed to put some pressure on Sheffield, how was the Nebraska defense not able to more fully exploit Tech's offensive line in the first half, when they had three players get nicked?

Another thing that Husker fans this season have known all too well?  Penalties.  Penalties, penalties, penalties.  Again not an excuse, but it's been very surprising to see a team, coached by a disciplinarian like Pelini, consistently shoot itself in the foot with stupid penalties and suffer other mental lapses, not the least of which was how the offense just gave up and stood around after the botched lateral from Lee to Niles Paul.

None of this bodes well as Nebraska still faces games against Oklahoma and Kansas (in Lawrence).  And at this point, following this game in which Nebraska had gotten most of the nation to buy what it was selling, if they didn't win the game outright, they were expected to at least feed off of the win at Missouri, continue their momentum and be competitive.  Instead, Nebraska hit a red and black wall of bricks and the Big Red machine came to a smoking, grinding halt.  At this point, no conference game is a gimme.

The final thing we do know about Nebraska?  They are NOT back.  Back?  We don't even know who they are.
Posted on: September 14, 2009 2:30 am
Edited on: September 14, 2009 2:31 am
 

Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9

It wasn't the Roy Helu Jr. Show again this week.  Instead, It was Zac Lee's time to shine.

Meanwhile the Blackshirts played better in some aspects, worse in others.

Not to oversimplify things, but having watched the game twice and knowing that many of you watched it also and/or read recaps and commentaries of the game, I'm going to break the game down into what I think are the salient points.

Note-I never read any media reports on the week's game until after I write my blog, so as not to color my perception.  I only check stats.

Before I examine the forensics of Nebraska's latest win, I have an admission to make: I hardly knew anything about Arkansas State.  I  know that they shocked the Aggies in College Station last year and that they beat Mississippi Valley State, 61-0, in the first week of this season.  And yes, Mississippi Valley State is what we would have formerly called a Division I-AA school.  However, despite the disparity in talent, anytime a team shuts out another by sixty-one points that's saying something.  So to reiterate, I didn't know what to expect from the Red Wolves, but I still expected a comfortable win by the Huskers.  And that's what we got.

Comfortable, but not particularly impressive.

Even though the Huskers punched in their first score in just over three minutes and jumped out to a 21-0 lead (which should have been 28-0, see below), Coach Pelini, ever the perfectionist, thought his team could play better.

Especially considering that the Huskers have a date in Blacksburg in less than a week, and while the Hokies lost in week one to Alabama, they more than took care of business against Marshall, albeit a Marshall team that squeaked out a three-point victory a week before against Southern Illinois.

So what do we really know?  Practically nothing.  I don't think it's any big secret that Pelini and his OC, Shawn Watson, haven't shown their team's full potential against two decidedly inferior opponents.  We do know that Alabama left a blueprint on how to beat Tech, but we don't know if the Huskers have the talent to execute it.

Besides, all of this is a topic for another day, a day very soon.

So, here are my observations of the Arkansas State Game:

Zac Lee looked quite comfortable as he threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, which was good considering that Arkansas State's defense seemed to have an answer for Roy Helu, Jr.  Helu had sixty yards rushing and another forty-four receiving.  While Helu's production was diminished, Watson stuck with his gameplan, mixing equal parts of running and passing plays well into the second half when it became clear that Nebraska's fortunes were to be gained through the air.  What was more impressive than Lee's stats was his ball distribution.  Fourteen Huskers caught passes (eleven from Lee), and the touchdowns were scored by Mike McNeill (twice), Niles Paul and Tyler Legate.  Niles Paul could have had a third score (his other TD came on a reverse), but Lee's beautiful 70-yard strike to Paul was called back after a holding penalty.

Which brings me to a second point.  While the Huskers had only four penalties, the aforementioned holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a kickoff were big ones and are the type of mistakes that the Huskers can ill afford to make against the Hokies or any of their upper-echelon Big XII foes.

Another thing that should give Husker fans pause was the play of the defense.  This week, Carl Pelini's squad managed to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and tally four sacks.  They also held the Red Wolves to ninety-eight net passing yards.  However, they allowed 174 yards on the ground and gave up sizable chunks of yardage on first and second downs.  Once again, this will not do when Nebraska faces more talented offenses.  They cannot continually give their opponents the advantage of second-and-short or third-and short.  And while Nebraska was able to exploit personnel mismatches, most notably their taller receivers against ASU's 5'11" DB, Cordarious Mingo, Pelini remarked after the game that the Huskers have had too many missed tackles and blown assignments in their first two contests.

So, in a week in which there were perhaps more questions than answers, will Nebraska have time to sharpen its game before their big date in Blacksburg?  And, just what is this team capable of accomplishing?

Husker Nation will have to wait for the answers.

 
 
 
 
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